Hollywood Fringe Festival 2019: The Final Stretch

Winding up our coverage of HFF 2019 with reviews of three last shows: Sorry About My Friend, Neighborhood Watch, and The Scorpion and the Frog: A Time-Killer

In the past, I took an all-you-can-eat approach to the Hollywood Fringe Festival. This might be appropriate for Fringe insiders, who go to support their theater peers in exchange for audiences at their own shows. But for an outsider just looking for some entertainment, Fringe can be overwhelming and a bit unnerving.

This year, I chose more judiciously and was rewarded by high quality in a higher percentage of shows. I’ve already written about some of these in previous articles (see here and here), and below you’ll find a few more.

I’ve described the Fringe as a weird combination of too much and too little, of overwrought stories and minimalist sets (production teams get access to the theater only 15 minutes before showtime). But as the 10th annual Hollywood Fringe Festival heads toward its June 30th closing date, I’ll accentuate this year’s many positives. Because #HFF19 features many moving stories, layered characters, and sensitive portrayals. Here are some more to try. But hurry up – there are only one or two performances left. (Note: click on each show’s title for performance schedules, venues, tickets, and other information.)

 

The Scorpion and The Frog: A Time-Killer

In the well-known fable, a scorpion asks a frog for a ride across a river. The frog, knowing the scorpion’s murderous reputation, says no, but the scorpion convincingly arues that the frog is safe: if it sinks its mode of transport, both carrier and passenger would drown. The frog reluctantly agrees and the scorpion climbs onto the frog’s back for the trip across the river.

You know the rest, or can figure it out.

But wait, there’s more.

Playwright Spencer Green slices and dices the story, deconstructing it, switching up roles, exploring philosophical meanings and psychological games. The word play is dazzling when the scorpion and frog negotiate, power shifting as deals are made and wishful thinking gives way to nature’s rules.

In this world premiere production by the 6th Act Theatre Company, Matthew Leavitt directs a talented cast: Christine Sage, Alex Parker, Thomas Bigley and Penny Peyser. The acting is first-rate. There’s even original music, well-played and sung.

 

Sorry About My Friend

Katie (Rachel Scott) and Danielle (Kelsey Griswold) in Sorry About My Friend

Danielle and Katie have been thrown together by the Texas Tech housing gods, assigned to the same dorm room. From their first meeting freshman year, in 2006, they seem destined to combust. Danielle (Kelsey Griswold) is the wild and careless bad girl whose philosophy is “If it doesn’t matter in a year, it doesn’t matter.” Katie (Rachel Scott, who also co-wrote the show) is the buttoned-up high achiever. How long before the hair-pulling and door-slamming begin?

Sorry About My Friend tracks their relationship over the passing years, in a perfectly pitched portrait of college that encompasses Greek life, mean girls, texting, crushes, breakups, drinking, Purell and dorm room decor. The roommates navigate the pitfalls in their lives as they head toward graduation.

Music is used judiciously to punctuate joy and pain. Set changes show the passage of time, and involve a guy using a cell phone to illuminate the darkened stage and provide him with a checklist. Despite his impressive attention to detail, his adjustments so minor that when the lights go up they’re barely indiscernible. This adds some comedy to the self-proclaimed dramedy.

After what feels like a leisurely, even slightly lagging four years, it’s graduation time. The ending is quick and jarring.

 

Neighborhood Watch

Lisa Pedace wrote and performs Neighborhood Watch

Annoying personal habits, noise, the converted AirBnB across the street…there are oh-so-many reasons to complain about the neighbors, and writer/performer Lisa Pedace touches on most of them in this one-woman show.

Neighborhood Watch head Elsa Wrightrain has lived in Canary Palms since it opened 27 years ago. She calls herself “a natural born leader with a keen eye for the fishy” and she’s presenting a case about her horrible neighbors, the Kacs, to an unseen judge.

No judge would allow a 20-minute preamble before getting to the nitty gritty, but Wrightrain’s monologue is uninterrupted as she gives the history of Canary Palms, shares a chart illustrating the neighborhood and dishes dirt on all the residents. She’s had to endure a lot, but then you get the impression that her neighbors have had to put up with a lot from her, too.

You’ll find unintentionally hilarious posts on NextDoor.com that cover some of this same ground. The difference is, those posts make you question your chosen neighborhood. The kooks described in Neighborhood Watch – and the main kook telling you about them – fortunately won’t be at your next homeowners association meeting.

 

 

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About Laura Foti Cohen

Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and marketing consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Neo Ensemble Theatre in Hollywood.

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